LATROBE, Pa. – There was something old and something new during the Steelers lone practice on Day 2 of their training camp here.
What would qualify as old – or at least familiar – was Ben Roethlisberger throwing a 16-yard touchdown pass to Heath Miller on a third-and-10 with 13 seconds remaining in the period devoted to the two-minute drill.
The new was provided by rookie outside linebacker Thaddeus Gibson, the No. 4 pick from Ohio State, who posted a 6-1 record in the backs-on-backers drill. Gibson was matched against Rashard Mendenhall twice, David Johnson, Mewelde Moore, Frank Summers, Sean McHugh and Isaac Redman. It appeared as though Redman was the only back to control Gibson.
"I saw some guys win some, and I saw some guys lose some," said Coach Mike Tomlin. "I saw some guys who need to grow technically, and that's usually the case early in training camp when you're talking about a drill like that. It's never lacking for enthusiasm or physicality, but it's usually lacking from a technique standpoint. We use that energy and enthusiasm as a teaching tool, and we teach those guys what a friend technique can be to them. Hopefully we'll see more quality technique the next time we do that drill."
Tomlin admitted the backs-on-backers drill favors the defense, because the linebackers get a running start at a back who then is asked to stop the charge and prevent the defender from getting to the quarterback. But even with that, and even though Tomlin is always reluctant to lavish praise on rookies this early in the process, Gibson's showing in the drill stood out.
"If you're a linebacker and you're shy you usually have a problem," said Tomlin. "I don't think (Gibson) has that problem."
The special category for Sunday's afternoon practice was the two-minute drill, and Tomlin explained what he was looking for during that session. "What we're looking for is to work on the situation. To work the ball down the field and hope to get a couple of critical situations where someone has to make a play at the end. We got that with the first group. The second group, we never really got it going offensively, so I didn't get what I was looking for. But so be it. There will be plenty of opportunities as we move forward to grow in those areas."
Roethlisberger quarterbacked the first-team offense, and he converted one of the situations by escaping pressure, running to his left and completing a pass to Hines Ward in the middle of the field for a first down. Then of course there was the touchdown pass to Miller.
With Byron Leftwich working with the second-team offense, he converted a third-and-1 with a pass to Matt Spaeth, but that was followed by four incompletions. Larry Foote broke up one of those attempts and rookie Antonio Brown dropped another that hit him right in the chest. On fourth down, Leftwich missed connecting with rookie Emmanuel Sanders cutting across the middle.
"A great day two for us," said Tomlin when it was over. "We're just continuing with getting started with this training camp. I liked the energy and enthusiasm from the guys and expect it to continue as we get comfortable with our surroundings."
INJURY UPDATE: Said Tomlin, "Casey Hampton continues to be day-to-day with his hamstring, Jonathan Dwyer has a mild hamstring, as does Maurkice Pouncey. Chris Scott has a foot injury where he'll be out for an extended period of time. Andre Frazier is still day-to-day with his knee. And Ramon Foster missed practice with a concussion he sustained yesterday. He performed well in all the testing today, and we'll continue to monitor him and maybe give him some physical exertion tomorrow that's not necessarily football-oriented and go from there. The natural wear-and-tear that's associated with training camp at this juncture – we'll adjust and hopefully we'll get those guys back quickly as we continue with this process."